When blessings hurt

posted in: Articles | 0

On some days, we don’t feel blessed at all. There are seasons in which we feel like we are hit by one wave after another. Facing sickness, heartache, accidents, opposition, wars, and other kinds of tragedy is part of life, even Christian life. Life can hurt tremendously, and sometimes it even leaves us wondering if God cares as much as He says He does.

When we follow Jesus, we don’t have any reason to doubt that God is for us and that He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28-35). Why then, do we face so much hardship? And how can we continue to see God’s loving hand in all of this?

Thankfully, we can find the answer in the Bible, so let’s explore this in this third part of the series in which we discover how Jacob’s journey reveals Jesus’s plans for our lives.

God’s protection in action

In the previous parts, we saw how Jacob learned to lean on God in dark times and how this caused him to become tremendously fruitful. Through awesome prophetic messages, we could see God’s hand in the lives of Jacob, his wives, and their children. God had promised Jacob several times that He would be with him. He would protect him, and make him fruitful. God kept His promises, but even so, Jacob’s journey was far from easy.

I wonder how often Jacob had to remind himself of God’s promises during the difficulties he faced in the house of his uncle Laban. Laban deceived him multiple times (Genesis 29:15-30, 30:35, 31:7) and in those moments, it would have been easy to stop believing that God was protecting him as He promised. If God is with him, protecting him, why would someone be allowed to bring him harm?

Well, in fact, no harm had come to Jacob. Laban meant evil against Jacob, but God meant it for good: each and every time that Laban deceived Jacob, it resulted in more blessings for Jacob. More children, more livestock, and above all more trust in God.

At the end of his stay at Laban’s property, Jacob saw clearly that God had faithfully blessed and protected him time after time (Genesis 31:5-7). Then, after 20 years of serving Laban with all his strength, God finally set Jacob free and allowed him to go back to the land he was promised. Again, God told Jacob that He would be with him on his journey (Genesis 31:3) so, what happens next, might come as a surprise.

Dealing with one wave after another

One could easily think that God’s promise meant Jacob’s life would prosper in all areas. But when we read about Jacob’s journey, this is clearly not the case, as he was hit with wave upon wave of misery:

  1. After a confrontation with his angry uncle, another angry person was on his way to meet Jacob: his vengeful brother Esau, with an army of 400 men! This caused Jacob to fear for his life (Genesis 32:6-8).
  2. Soon after, Jacob’s hip was dislocated while wrestling with God (Genesis 32:24-30), and he walked away from the fight with a limp. (More about this in part 4 of the series.)
  3. Sometime later, his daughter Dinah was raped (Genesis 34:2). (We’ll discuss this event in part 5 of this series.)
  4. This led her brothers to take revenge and kill all the men in that city and plunder it, causing trouble for Jacob in the process (Genesis 34:25-30).
  5. A while later, his mother’s nurse died. She likely meant a lot to Jacob; she was perhaps even like a grandmother or aunt to him. They called the tree they buried her under ‘the oak of weeping/mourning’ (Genesis 35:8).
  6. Not long after, tragedy struck again. Before they arrived at their destination, Rachel, the love of Jacob’s life, died during childbirth, taking away the opportunity for Jacob to introduce her to his father.
  7. Some time after all that heartbreak, Jacob’s eldest son Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine.
  8. Then after finally reaching his destination and being reunited with his father, his father died.

Fear, physical pain, trauma, mourning, betrayal, it was one thing after another. How easy would it have been for Jacob to regret coming on this journey, with everything that went “wrong” on the way? To think that God had let him down, or that he had misunderstood God when He told him to leave Laban?
But God was with Jacob in every circumstance, just as He had promised. If you read the entire story, you can see how God continues to show up to bless Jacob and to remind him of His promises.

God knew that Jacob would face pain, but He also knew that these things were necessary for Jacob’s good and God’s glory. Knowing that God was with him through it all, must have been very consoling for Jacob.

[Text continues after the image.]

A photograph of waves coming in from the sea onto the shore. While the clouds up ahead are dark and ominous, there is a bright orange sky above the clouds, promising better weather. The text reads: The blessing of facing wave after wave of difficulties. DanielleBernice.com.

Blessings are not always comfortable

Jacob is not the only one whom God promised success before encountering many hardships. His son Joseph went through a similar pattern. After receiving dreams from God about a promising future, he was sold into slavery. Then after a time of success, he was wrongfully imprisoned. And all of that, in the end, led to the fulfillment of God’s promises: becoming the mightiest man in Egypt to whom his brothers had to bow down.

Plot twist: God’s promises of power and might were not primarily meant for Joseph’s glory, but for God’s. Through Joseph’s power, He kept many people alive, so that God’s plans for multiplying His people and eventually bringing forth Jesus could be fulfilled (Genesis 45:5-7, Luke 3:33-34).

Realizing this reveals an even deeper meaning to the verse: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20, ESV). Think about it: You and I would not have been alive in Christ if it were not for Joseph’s hardships that led to the unfolding of God’s marvelous plan!

We often think, or hope, that being blessed by God means living a comfortable life, but that is not what blessings are about. Jesus reminds us of this in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:3-12). “Blessed are those who mourn…,” “Blessed are those who are persecuted…,” “Blessed are you when others revile you…”
There is nothing comfortable about these blessings, yet they are part of the Christian journey. Jesus experienced these things too, and we are not above Him. What makes these things bearable though, is that He is with us through all of it, protecting us, making us fruitful, and reminding us of His promises.

A matter of perspective

I know that I went through hardships after receiving a promise of blessing from God, and many of you probably share that experience. Therefore, let’s keep in mind that our fleeting life here on earth is not about our comfort, but about our relationship with Jesus Who enables us to do good works so that others can be reconciled with God through Jesus too!
We’ll have plenty of time (eternity) to be comfortable when we reach the promised land, our home, where we will be with our Father in heaven.

Life on this earth is tough, but God is here with you, pulling you through, teaching you valuable lessons, shaping your character, and preparing for you an eternal reward.
Every difficulty you encounter is part of God’s loving plan to refine and mold you to become more like His Son. Being refined isn’t a comfortable process, but it is necessary and good and a sign of His love for you (Zechariah 13:9, Daniel 12:10, James 1:2-4, 1 Corinthians 11:32, Hebrews 12:5-8).

That is why we must look beyond what we see here on earth to recognize the blessings in even the most terrible things happening to us. We can only see and savor a blessing when we look to the things that are unseen, rather than to the things that are seen here on earth (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). And so we need to remind ourselves of the fact that God always intends what happens to us for His glory, our good, and the good of many others.

Don’t fight the one who blesses you

When Jacob feared for His life and was all alone, He wrestled with a Man later identified as God (Genesis 32:22-32). We will dig deeper into the meaning and significance of this event in the next part of the series, but for now, I want to show you something specific: Jacob fought with God because He didn’t recognize Him.

When we act in our own strength, for example out of fear, impatience, or deception, we end up going against the stream that God laid out for us. Going against the stream only wears us out, and doesn’t lead to reaching the best destination anyway. We preserve strength and are much more successful, peaceful, joyful, and fruitful when we head in the direction God has planned for us.

But even downstream, we will encounter obstacles. That means we cannot simply lie on our backs to be carried along by the current; we need to be active, vigilant, and courageous in the knowledge that He is with us every step of the way (Deuteronomy 31:6). We wear God’s armor to stand strong under every attack. And when situations seem impossible to overcome, we can trust God to keep His promises and carry on.

Jacob’s fight with God took quite a long time, and when God had had enough, He caused Jacob’s hip to be dislocated (Genesis 32:25). Everyone who has suffered from a forcefully dislocated joint, knows the excruciating pain that it causes. But even with that excruciating pain, and the inability to properly move, Jacob did not surrender.
Sometimes God allows us to be afflicted so that we will stop fighting Him and stop doing things in our own strength. God wants us to surrender to Him completely.

Thankfully, God is patient, and even after we have struggled with Him, in His mercy, He still blesses us.

In my book ‘Overcoming Burnout through Biblical Tactics’ you can read all about how I was afflicted when I swam upstream instead of surrendering to God’s purpose for my life. I did recognize God’s voice, but time after time, I headed in the wrong direction when I tried to regain control. Just like Jacob, I ended up limping away from the fight (literally with a hip problem!), as a reminder to completely surrender to God, or lose the battle.

To consider

Whenever you are in a season of continued difficulties, it might be helpful to ask yourself:

  • Am I going against the stream of God’s plans for my life?
  • Have I surrendered completely?
  • Am I looking for blessings that suit my comfort level, or will I rejoice even in the blessings that initially hurt?
  • Am I looking for results in what I see, feel, and hear, rather than keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus and His promises?
  • Have I forgiven the people who meant evil against me, or do I harbor bitterness against them?
  • Do I trust that God means well for my life?
  • Do I trust that God is with me throughout my suffering, cheering me on?

If you have difficulty responding in faith to any of these questions, repent, ask God to forgive you, and surrender to His goodness.

We will stop fighting God and hurting ourselves when we recognize Him and let go in complete surrender. Don’t let the darkness of fear, pain, and sadness cloud your judgment. Trust His blessing hand in everything. He knows what He is doing and He will use what seems wrong for the good of many.

Remember that even when you are facing one challenge after the next, God is working on a blessing greater than you can fathom. For we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
So, don’t give up, but expectantly continue on the journey God has set out for you!

Please sign up for the newsletter to see when the next part of this 5-part series is published!